Encyclical from The Ecumenical Patriarch on the feast of the Nativity
By the mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch: grace, mercy, and peace to all the fullness of the Church from Christ, the Saviour born in Bethlehem.
Brethren and beloved children in the Lord,
The sweetness of the Holy Night of Christmas once again envelops the world, and in the midst of human fatigue and labours, of crises and events, of suffering and enmities, of disquiet and disillusionment, the mystery of God becoming human appears with the same enchantment as in the past, and is just as real and contemporary as ever, urging us on so that "we who dwell on earth might learn righteousness" (Isaiah 26.9), since "a Saviour is born for us today" (Luke 2.11).
Unfortunately, however, many people in our day think like that slayer of infants, the lawless and unprincipled Herod, and exterminate their fellow human beings in a myriad of ways. The mind of the ruler of this world, twisted by egocentrism and made manifest in the person of Herod, paradoxically saw his own existence endangered by the birth of a single innocent Child,and chose as a more fitting method of safeguarding his worldly authority from the danger posed by (in his view) the birth of the child its destruction.
So that the Infant Christ, announced by the angels, could be saved from these murderous plans, he was constrained to flee to Egypt, and thus settled there as a "political refugee," as we might say in today's parlance, along with Mary his Mother, the Most-Pure Theotokos, and Joseph the Betrothed.
In our time, regarded as one of progress, many children are constrained to settle as refugees, following their parents so as to save their lives, sought after by enemies of various names. This fact results in shame for the human race.
Therefore, on the occasion of the birth of the Child Jesus, our true redeemer and Saviour, we also proclaim from the Most-Holy, Apostolic and Ecumenical Patriarchal Throne that all societies must safeguard the secure development of children, and respect their right to life, to education, and to their proper development, which can also secure their upbringing and education within the framework of the traditional family, on the basis of love, compassion for others, peace, solidarity: all good things, which our Lord, who took flesh for our sake, grants us today.
The Saviour who has been born calls all of us to receive this message of the salvation of humankind. It is true that in the long history of humans, peoples have undertaken many removals and resettlements; it was our hope, however, that after the two World Wars and the calls for peace made by ecclesiastical and political leaders and organizations, that contemporary societies would have been able to secure the peaceful living conditions for people in their countries. Unfortunately, events have disappointed this hope, because great hordes of people have been forced, under threat of their annihilation, to walk the bitter road of flight as a refugee.
This evolving situation with the ceaselessly increasing wave of refugees increases our responsibility, yet as long as we have the blessing to live peacefully and in some comfort, let us not remain insensitive in the face of the daily drama of thousands of our fellow human beings, but rather, let us express to them our real solidarity and love, with the certainty that every good work done to them will turn out to be done to the person of the Son of God, who was born and took flesh, and who came to the world not as a king, not as one in authority, not as one powerful or rich, but was born as a naked and defenseless infant, in a little stable, without a hearth, just as many of our fellow human beings live at this very moment; and he was forced in the first years of his earthly life to emigrate to a distant land in order to be saved from Herod's hatred. We could say that the earth and the sea are drinking the innocent blood of the refugee children of today, and the insecure soul of Herod "receives its judgment."
But the divine Infant, who was born and is travelling to Egypt, is himself the real protector of today's refugees, who are being persecuted by the Herods of our day. This Infant Jesus, our God "became weak for the weak" (cf. 1 Cor. 9.22), likening himself to all of us who are powerless, overwhelmed, who are in danger and who are refugees. Our support and help to our fellow human beings who are being persecuted and uprooted - no matter their tribe, race, or religion - will be gifts for our Lord who has been born that are more valuable than the gifts of the Magi, and treasures more precious than "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (cf. Mt. 2.11), abiding spiritual riches that cannot be taken away, which through the ages will never see corruption, but will lead us up to the kingdom of heaven.
Let each one of us offer whatever we can to the Lord, who is seen in the person of our brothers, the refugees; let us offer to the little Christ, who is being born today in Bethlehem, these precious gifts of love, sacrifice, and charity, following the example of his compassion; and let us worship him with the angels, the Magi, and the simple shepherds, crying out with all the saints: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will to humans" (Luke 2.14).
May the grace and rich mercy of the refugee Infant Christ be with all of you!
+Bartholomew of Constantinople
the continual intercessor before God for you all